The occupation started this past Saturday and for now the arrests are over. The people who stay are confined to the sidewalk so when I spend my time there we are on the sidewalk. Negotiations are going on for a better spot. People drive by and honk in support. The police are friendly and stand by. My fellow protesters are all ages. Many have had job troubles. There are many concerns voiced. The underlying theme is a more just society, more inclusive, more opportunities. There are many ideas on what specifically should be changed.
When Adam Smith proposed capitalism, he had the landed aristocracy in his crosshairs. Capitalism would spread the wealth more evenly than the king and his cronies.
Today’s America resembles nothing so much as the old feudal system that Adam Smith wanted to upend when he proposed capitalism and free markets. It is just a different bunch of aristocrats running the show. And now corporations are also running the show even though they are not really people. The idea that they are is a ludicrous invention of a bunch of people who have not thought things through, imagine trying to get moral and ethical behavior out of a “person” with no body, no soul, no morals, no ethics, a “person” made out of paper.
I have written here about Yama and Niyama, the Yogic Ten Commandments or guidelines for living. Shrii Shrii Anandamurti said that the minimum that you had to do to live the yogic life was to meditate twice a day, and understand and try to follow Yama and Niyama. Meditating on the meaning of Ahimsa (non-harming) can lead you to become vegetarian (less harming to animals), to recycle (less harming to the environment), and other behavioral changes that result in better world. Meditating on Satya (speaking the truth with compassion) can result in less name calling and a quieter but more powerful way of expressing yourself.
But can we apply these principles to behavior of corporations and governmental agencies? Why not? If we are asked to entertain the ridiculous notion that a corporation that is a bunch of papers filed with the government is a legal person, then why can’t we evaluate whether they follow Yama and Niyama.
Let’s start with Ahimsa (non-harming). Do chicken producers running CAFO operations follow this? How about the company that sold the bad mortgage securities that their people knew were trash? How about coal companies that are blowing the tops off mountains, polluting the ground water with toxic poisons, shipping the coal to be burned in a way that puts mercury and toxic soot in the air, and then funding commercials for clean coal energy? When companies export jobs to places with lower wages and few worker protections and lay off thousands? Are all these following non-harming?
Anandamurti did not say that everyone had to follow Yama and Niyama perfectly all the time to be living the yogic lifestyle. He said that each person would have to understand and “try” to follow these guidelines.
Are these companies trying? I say no. I say that they do not recognize any obligation to try. They are governed primarily by the profit motive. They will follow laws and regulations to some degree and will also react to pressure from the public, but they also will spend money to buy regulation changes and fund “think tanks” to snow the public with a bunch of theory that backs up their “right” to stuff their pockets as full as they can and avoid anything that might slow them down.
This situation is not sustainable. Sustainability is key to a good life for all. Remember, no one is even asking for perfection here. A start would be to incorporate these as goals. Another start would be to revoke corporate personhood. I am not the first one to suggest that. Until something is done in this direction, I guess we Occupy!